The Trolley and the Pinto: Cost-Benefit Analysis in Automated Driving and Other Cyber-Physical Systems

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Vol: 4, Issue: 2, Page: 197-208

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Smith, Bryant Walker
Law; Transportation Law
article description
Automated driving has attracted substantial public and scholarly attention. This brief Article describes how that attention has brought new fame to a classic philosophical thought experiment (the “trolley problem”), critiques how this thought experiment has been applied in that context, proposes a more practical extension of that experiment based on risk rather than harm, notes that this extension may still involve programming value judgments, argues with reference to the Ford Pinto debacle that these judgments could inflame juries or the public at large, and emphasizes the need for appropriately focused public discussion of these issues. The Article may be especially relevant to developers and regulators of cyber-physical systems, including the automated driving systems2 that operate self-driving vehicles.